Cigar smoking goes way back. Seriously, way back. There’s a long, rich history of both cigar production and appreciation that’s filled many books.
But that’s not entirely why we’re here.
Because while the cigars that your great-grandfather used to smoke may no longer be around, his humidor may be. Humidors are really common heirlooms. Ask a lot of cigar aficionados today some of the memories they have of their grandfathers—and sometimes grandmothers—and they’ll tell you it’s the unique, sweet, earthy smell of a cigar they remember most. Second? The iconic humidor they used to keep on a desk, or in the living room, or hidden out in the shed.
So you’ve come into possession of a vintage, antique humidor. You should feel proud of all the history that it holds in your family—and all the stogies it’s held in its lifetime. But the bigger question is: can you still use it?
Are Modern Humidors Better Than Antiques?
If you got here, you might also be wondering if buying a modern humidor would be a better bet than your antique hand-me-down. That’s a loaded question—we do have several really excellent modern humidor models available—that’s dependent on a lot of qualities.
The beauty of most humidors is that they’re not complex machines. In fact, for most desktop and other flip-top humidors, they’re not machines at all. They’re boxes, lined with a specific species of absorbent wood, with a hydration method and ideally a hygrometer for measuring the humidity inside of them. They’ve worked for hundreds of years like that, so why mess with a good thing? Much unlike good cutters and torch lighters, which have evolved lightyears ahead of what they were.
Modern humidors aren’t necessarily any more advanced than your antique. Hygrometers for humidors may be digital and built-in, but it may not have one at all. Modern humidors may offer more in terms of styling and details, but all-in-all, they’re still going to operate the same way a traditional humidor does.
The biggest caveat to this is the condition of your humidor. If it’s been beaten up, left to dry out in the sun, or dropped consistently over its lifetime and is barely holding itself together—well, a new humidor may ultimately cost you less in the long run, and work better at that. But a humidor that’s been well-cared-for and regularly seasoned should offer you plenty more years of cigar storage.
What Does an Antique Humidor Need to Work?
Because of its lack of technology, an antique humidor only needs a handful of things to work effectively.
First, its lining needs to be intact. The humidor’s lining is made of a special type of wood called Spanish Cedar. It’s exceptionally absorbent, which comes into play with the other element.
Second, it needs a humidification system. Our humidors are specially designed to use a humidification tray and a specially designed solution to season a humidor to an optimal level. Others like to use a popular two-way humidification method—but we’ve found those don’t work as well for medium or large humidors.
Finally, you need a hygrometer, which is a tool that measures humidor humidity. Your antique humidor may have also come with an antique hygrometer. You can also choose to upgrade your hygrometer to a digital model and blend old and new technology.
It works like this: the humidification system introduces moisture into the air of the humidor. The wood lining absorbs the moisture. As the wood breathes, it will eventually reach an equilibrium that is, ideally, between 67 - 72% humidity—which you can read using the hygrometer. These are the optimal conditions for cigars that are stored inside a humidor.
How Do I Repair My Antique Humidor?
If your heirloom humidor isn’t in the best condition, don’t worry. There are still a handful of things you can do to get it back in working order.
First, if the actual frame of your humidor is damaged in any way and you aren’t a serious woodworker in either career or hobby, the humidor may not be worth saving.
If the interior seems dry, though, there’s a good chance it can be repaired. All it should need is a good reseasoning. We recommend using our specialized solution to season your humidor. If you choose another, just make sure it doesn’t contain salt. Salt can wreak havoc on both the lining of a humidor and on the taste of the cigars you store in it.
To reseason your antique humidor, you can follow these steps:
- Open the humidor and remove any trays that may be in it.
- Place a small plastic container (a plastic food food storage container will work) inside the humidor and fill it with solution. It doesn’t need to be full.
- After 12 hours, you want your humidor to be about 68 percent humidity or higher. This can certainly take much longer. If you have difficulty reaching this number or your humidor is in particularly rough shape, we recommend using our Winter and Dry Climate Solution, which is available through our Klaro membership.
- After hitting the 68 percent target, open the gel packet and sprinkle it into the container. Add more solution.
- Wait 6-12 hours for the crystals to soak up the solution.
- Analyze the humidity reading.
- If the humidity level is 70-75 percent, move on to step 7.
- If it’s reading between 65-69 percent, add more solution to each quadrant, then move to step 8.
- If it’s below 65 percent, we recommend that you use the Winter and Dry Climate Solution.
- If it’s above 75 percent, remove the container for between 12-48 hours. Then reinstall and determine the reading.
- Remove the container and replace any trays.
- Place your cigars into the humidor. Keep it as full as possible. The cigars will soak up some humidity. Wait for things to equalize over 24-48 hours and determine the reading. Then make adjustments as necessary.
Antique humidors are full of stories and make for great conversation starters. If you can make yours work, it’s something you may be able to pass down even further in your family in the future.